April 10, 2015

Dignity of Risk

  “The essence of independence has been to think and act according to standards from within, not without: to follow one’s own path, not that of the crowd.”  ― Nicholas Tharcher One of the many stereotypes or preconceived notions about people with disabilities is that they cannot make decisions for themselves.  Because of their disability, we believe they need instruction and guidance; otherwise they will do things that are harmful, unsafe or dangerous.  With the best intentions (to keep the person safe), employees sometimes believe they must become the instructor and decision-maker for the person served.  With the decision-making power now in someone else’s hands, the person is subject to the specific values and beliefs of someone else (oftentimes someone they just met).  In my own experiences, one of the biggest frustrations I have heard from the persons I have served has been for people to stop telling them what […]
March 24, 2015

The Power of Positivity

  “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” – Anonymous From their book “The Extraordinary Leader,” John Zenger and Joseph Folkman analyzed hundreds of organizations and their leaders over several years, and from this research developed a list of ten “fatal flaws” that led to failure in leadership.  The most common and most noticeable fatal flaw was failing to inspire due to lack of energy and enthusiasm.  One person interviewed described his boss as, “having the ability to suck all the energy out of any room.”  An individual lacking positive energy and having a negative outlook on everything very quickly saps energy from those around him.  Conversely, a leader with a positive attitude creates a significant “trickle down” effect.  Her enthusiasm and positive energy spreads to her employees.  This energy has been shown to increase productivity, efficiency, improve overall job satisfaction and, as you would imagine, decrease turnover.  The trickle […]
March 10, 2015

Putting Things in Perspective

Much of the research and literature on the experiences of raising a child with a disability focuses on dysfunction and the stress as a result of having a disabled child, dismissing the positive transformations a family can go through.  Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with two parents and learn about their individual experiences and struggles, as well as their new found strengths and positive outcomes. Both Susan, whose son has autism, and John, whose daughter has cerebral palsy and intellectual disabilities, were very open and surprisingly blunt in answering tough questions about their experiences. Susan discussed how typically when your child has an illness, you go see the doctor and he develops a plan of action for treating the illness.  With autism, however, “You are waiting for someone to tell you, ‘Okay, your child has autism.  This is what we are going to do…’ but the ‘what […]
February 25, 2015

Everyone Has "Behaviors"

One of the most enjoyable parts of my professional career has been the opportunity to do training and orientation with new employees.  It is informative for me (to meet the people who work for us and learn more about them and their experiences), and fun to share some information that I think is helpful (and oftentimes things I wish I had been told early in my own career).  Although I have done training on a variety of topics, if I had to give just one single piece of advice to someone new to this profession, I would say to always keep one thought at the forefront of your mind: People with disabilities are capable and intelligent; their emotions, feelings, and thoughts are just as complex and rich as anyone else’s.  I believe having this in mind allows us to give people the benefit of the doubt and to better understand […]